It’s been an eventful week. The blues hammered West Ham 5-0 in the season opener, but the main talking point from that match seemed to be the arrival of VAR, and its impression has been made yet again with the blues.
But that’s for later as we start our review of the week in fine style, and by that I’m talking about City’s fine from FIFA in relation to signing under age players.
This week, the blues accepted a FIFA charge that they had breached FIFA rules on signing players under the age of 18. FIFA stated that the blues had breached Article 19 of FIFA regulations, which state that International transfers of players are only permitted if the player is over the age of 18.
The blues explained the breaches all occurred before December 2016 and were as a result of misinterpretation of the regulations in question. FIFA accepted this and instead of placing a transfer ban on the club, fined the blues £315,000.
But this verdict caused uproar in the football world, most notably from Chelsea fans, who insisted that the blues ‘yet again got away with breaking the rules’ while Chelsea were punished. In February, the London club were banned from signing players for two transfer windows for breaching Article 19 in relation to 29 youth players, and the supporters were quick to accuse FIFA of double standard, even suggesting City had bribed FIFA to let them off with a fine!
The issue here though surrounds two issues: City’s acceptance they broke the rules and the fact that it only related to two players.
The club explained they had misunderstood the rules and admitted they had breached FIFA regulations, and in doing so, meant they would accept what punishment came their way. There are not many clubs that would do this, and despite the FFP investigation hanging over their heads, the club willingly admitted breaching the rules.
To do it once can be classed as a genuine mistake. To do it twice can be classed as foolish, so what would you call it if you make the same breach 29 times? I think that’s another difference in the punishment City and Chelsea received, and that has got to be taken into account.
Nevertheless, it is still City that are the underhand club, the oil cheats who get away with everything.
VAR Again? Seriously?
On Saturday, City and Spurs played out an entertaining 2-2 draw, but again VAR decided it would intervene and ruin was a perfectly good game. Two incidents stand out and it’s curious how VAR was implemented in one incident but not the other.
The first one we’ll look at was Gabriel Jesus’ ‘goal’ which again was ruled out. Aymeric Laporte was judged to have handled in the build-up, but a closer look actually shows the offending arm being pulled by the Spurs defender prior to the ball coming in, but VAR conveniently misses this. The referee was right in front of play and had a good view of the offending incident, but to be honest, you’d have to be super-human to have spotted a handball there. Just like last week’s Sterling goal that was disallowed, no human could have spotted that his shoulder was offside, which can only lead me to one conclusion: VAR is not checking for clear and obvious errors, it is replacing the referee in decision making.
If you look at the referee now, the are no longer pointing to the centre circle after a goal. Instead, they are waiting for VAR to confirm a goal stands. This is not what the VAR dream was sold to us supporters as. VAR was introduced to look for ‘clear and obvious errors,’ and mistakes leading to goals. And while VAR was correct in disallowing the goal due to the new rules on handball, it is clear VAR is checking every goal and taking that decision out if the hands of the referee.
The second incident is the Rodri penalty that never was. Again the referee was in a good position and it was blatantly obvious that Rodri was being man-handled in the box. The defender’s arms were wrapped around his neck, preventing him from going for the header until he his finally pushed to the floor. The referee signalled to the appealing Raheem Sterling that he hadn’t received anything from VAR so no penalty.
Why was the ref waiting for VAR to tell him? Does he no longer have any authority on the pitch and has to wait for someone in a VAR control room in London to tell him? And where was the VAR review? Surely that’s the sort of thing that VAR was brought in for, to look for clear and obvious errors from the referee? If they didn’t even review that incident, then quite frankly, VAR is not doing the job the clubs and supporters believed it was supposed to be doing.
We’re only two games in and we can’t make too much of this at the moment, but already, VAR is having an impact. Our rivals will no doubt be revelling in the fact that City are having winning goals disallowed. I’d like to say that their time will come when they have match-winning goals cancelled out, but the cynical side of me is already thinking that will not happen.
There’s a long way to go until May, but it’s going to be a long and frustrating time if this is happening week in, week out.
Let’s see what next week brings!